Category Archives: Novel Excerpt

Pauly Peacock (excerpt) by Alice Kinerk

This is the story of an orphaned peacock in Washington State. He did not know about his parents and their tragic encounter with a coyote, their dreams for him, the traditional peafowl lullabies, the bedtime stories of great peacock adventurers. And he did not know anything about the world outside the little hobby farm where he lived. But still, Pauly had a lightness in his bones, a happiness in his heart. Although he couldn’t have put a feather on how he knew, Pauly knew that he was destined for great things. 

Chapter 1: Something Other Birds Can’t Do

Pauly Peacock was born on a hobby farm on the dim and drizzly Key Peninsula in Washington State, but practically from the day his egg cracked, it was clear his future would be bright, bright, bright.

There were so many things Pauly could do!

“I can fly!” Pauly said one day to Patticake, the old dog who had lived on the farm since long before Pauly’s time. “Watch!” Then Pauly leaped out the door of his treehouse coop, spread his wings, swooped three, four, five feet, and came to a gentle landing in front of Patticake.

“I can catch bugs!” he said, licking up a large black ant crawling past Patticake’s paw.

Patticake yawned. “Show me something other birds can’t do.”

Because Pauly was only two, he hadn’t yet grown the colorful train of feathers peacocks are known for. Because Pauly was the only peacock on the farm, he didn’t even know he would grow a train. Because Pauly was a cheerful peachick, young and naive, he took Patticake’s comment as a challenge, a step toward his dazzling destiny. Show me something other birds can’t do.

“Okay, I will!” Pauly said.

And soon he would! Pauly’s dazzling destiny began later that very afternoon. Patticake had meandered over to the fence by the road and decided once again to bark at the top of her lungs. Pauly was on the other side of the farm, in the compost pile. Pauly liked the compost pile. It was a great place to dig for bugs. It took his mind off the barking. He would drag his toes through the pile and gorge on anything that moved. Imagine an all-you-can-eat restaurant with all the foods you like best.

That day there was a scrap of cardboard, a piece of a box, lying on top of the compost. Pauly was too busy eating to pay attention to it at first. But his eyes kept catching on the box, on the nine red squiggles that were printed on it. Pauly thought they looked like worms. But they weren’t moving. They were merely drawings of worms. Or were they?

The longer Pauly thought about the strange red worms, the more he began to suspect they held meaning beyond his grasp. Otherwise, why print just nine? Why not fill the entire cardboard panel with lovely drawings of delicious red wiggly worms? And why make each worm so twisty and unique? If Pauly was to draw a worm, he would use a stick to make one straight line in the dirt. Or maybe one slightly wiggly line. That was it.

But the details on these worms were fantastic! Some of them were made up of two or three parts and didn’t look much like worms at all. After working that mystery around in his birdy brain for a while, it occurred to Pauly perhaps the particular shape of each worm had meaning. Perhaps the nine of them, lined up in their weird, contorted positions, had meaning when taken altogether.

There was an arrow on the cardboard as well. A big, black, serious-looking arrow. To the right of the arrow were the nine “worms” that Pauly saw.

Like this:

Pauly thought it must mean something, but he had no idea what.

He walked around it the other side of the panel and stared at it from that direction.

Then he walked around to the side he’d started on and stared at it from the first direction again.

Pauly picked up the cardboard panel in his beak. The arrow was pointed down. The wiggly worms were now to the left of it.

Like this:

“Hey Patticake.” Pauly spoke clearly but carefully, the sign clamped in his beak. “This mean anything to you?”

Patticake was too busy barking to hear. She barked constantly. When she wasn’t barking, she was lying in the sun, half-asleep and farting. Pauly had absolutely no idea why Patticake lived on the farm. She’d dug up a good portion of the carrots months before they were ready. She’d chewed up the rake handle. She’d eaten a glove. One time, poor Patticake had made the mistake of pooping on the electric fence. Pauly had heard her yelp and glanced up in time to see her dash off, hurt and baffled, the wire still reverberating behind her. That was funny.

But the barking. Patticake was simply one of those dogs who liked to hear herself bark. A lot. Patticake rarely had anything to say, and boy could she take a long time not saying it. The moment a twig cracked in the woods, or the distant odor of rabbit wafted by, or sometimes for absolutely no reason at all, Patticake would be on her feet. “Did you smell that Pauly? Did you smell that in the woods? Somebody’s out there! Somebody furry! Raise your beak and sniff! Did you smell that? Did you? Did you? Did you?” Yap-yap-yapping quicker than a housefly can skedaddle.

“Patti!” Pauly tried again. No luck. Then Pauly realized something. It must be four pm. Six days a week, at pretty much exactly four pm, the mailman came rumbling up in his little box-shaped car, dropped a couple of rectangular pieces of paper into a metal box on the other side of the hobby farm, snapped the box shut, and drove away again.

That was all.

However, to hear Patticake tell it, the guy pretty much had a regular appointment to rob the place. Pauly would be half-awake, preening his feathers. To him the sound of the mailman’s engine was indistinguishable from that of any of the other cars on the road, but Patticake’s head would be tilted, her ears perked, ready to let loose with barking. “You hear that, Pauly? You hear what I hear? Do you? Do you hear that? A car! The car! The mailman is here! He’s back! He’s back again! Pauly! Pauly! Pauly! Mailman! Pauly! Pauly! Pauly! Mailman! Pauly! Pauly! Pauly! Mailman! Pauly! Pauly! Pauly! Mailman! Do you hear?” Patticake’s rapid-fire bark could blow the thoughts out of Pauly’s head just as heavy raindrops blow out an anthill.

Pauly strode across the length of the farm–it wasn’t far–and stood next to her with the cardboard panel.

This time, Patticake noticed. She turned away from the fence to look at Pauly and laughed. When Patticake laughed her doggy lips pulled back menacingly from her long, yellow teeth, but then she exhaled again in happy little puffs. Ha! Ha! Ha!

“What’s so funny?”

“You’ve got it upside down.”

“How do you know?”

“They’ve got a box like that inside, and the arrow always points toward the sky.” Patticake’s tail wagged. “You know, up.”

Pauly walked away and set the cardboard back in the compost pile, so the arrow pointed away from him.

Pauly thought and thought. The worms somehow told the humans that the arrow should point up. The word up was a very short word, without many sounds to it… he decided that the last row of worms made the word up. UP.

Pauly found it very difficult to sleep that night. Every time his thoughts began to feather off into dreams, excitement came racing through like garter snakes on a sunny day.

This! Peacock! Could! Read!

It did not matter that he could only read one word, and only a two-letter word at that. He could read! Animals had always been able to talk to one another, that was a dawn-of-time thing, but an animal who could read actual human words…unheard of! Pauly, at least, had never heard of such a thing.

Pauly had always been a proud peacock, that was the nature of his species. But that night, Pauly had proud thoughts rolling around in his birdy brain, picking up prouder and prouder thoughts, until he felt filled to bursting with some of the proudest thoughts any peacock has ever thought.

Thoughts like this: Today, by learning to read, I made one small step. But, at the same time, I achieved a giant leap for animalkind.

* * * * *
Alice Kinerk is a writer living in the woods on the Key Peninsula. She is the proud owner of the world’s greatest dog, a lab named Rudy. She and Rudy walk the trails behind their house every day. Every day, on the same tree, a red squirrel climbs down to squeak at and torment Rudy. This interaction between wild and domesticated animals was the inspiration for her new middle grade novel, Pauly Peacock, about the adventures of a feral peacock in the Key Peninsula woods.

Alice holds an MFA in English from the UW and writes occasionally for the Key Peninsula News. She teaches elementary school in Gig Harbor. The internet is littered with her abandoned blogs, half-baked social media comments, as well a smidgen of humor writing that actually got published. Alice’s first novel, The Octopus Under the Bridge, middle grade fiction set in post-peak oil Tacoma and Key Peninsula, is available on Amazon. You can read the first chapter and find links to her other work at alicekinerk.com.

Meet the Characters in ‘Visual Liberties’ an excerpt by Alec Clayton

Author photoBitsey

Calling Bitsey Ashton a square peg in a round hole would be like saying the Titanic was a motorboat that sprang a leak. Bitsey is more like a trapezoid with razor edges, capable of drilling herself into any hole of any shape no matter how big or little. She’s now middle aged with grown daughters. At least the daughters think they’re grown; Bitsey is not so sure about her youngest, Molly, a brand new freshman at Mississippi University for Women on the Gulf Coast. Big sister Jamie Lew married Abdul Taylor and is living in New Orleans. Those sharp edges of Bitsey’s have been sanded smooth by hard times and tragedy—most devastating, the loss of her son, Justin.

She can fool most people into believing she’s just like a normal person, which has proven to be a blessing to her husband, Malcolm; but there are times when he wishes she’d get a little of her edge back.

Bitsey poked her head out of her mother’s womb two weeks prematurely on Christmas day, 1966. She came out screaming and flailing her arms and legs. Beet-faced. Hard little knots of muscle showing in her calves and biceps. “This’un’s gonna be a fighter,” her mother said with self-evident pride. The proud mama, Geraldine Fordham, seventeen at the time, was not married and refused to tell anyone who the baby’s father was. She said it was nobody’s damn business. Truth was, she didn’t know. Conception happened when she was living in a crash pad in Nashville. Throughout the six weeks that she lived there, at least two dozen hippies called the place home for a night or two or at most a month. They’d climb off the Greyhound bus at the downtown station and make their way as if by internal radar to Centennial Park where they would inevitably run into someone from one of the many crash pads in town such as the house on West End Avenue where Geraldine lived. Multiple sexual partners amongst the many West End hippies was the order of the day. Free love. Whatever gets you through the night. One of the men Geraldine slept with was a tall man with long blonde hair and charismatic personality. She slept with him only once, but they did not use a condom. She liked to think he was the father of her baby, but she knew she would never know for sure. He vanished from her life before she even knew she was pregnant. Continue reading

Clogs and Gold Lame Tube Tops by Christina Wheeler

ChristinaBefore I attended Catholic school I grew up with MTV. I headbanged and threw up the devil horns like a heathen child in my crib when Cum on Feel the Noize came on. I loved Ozzy. I couldn’t help it. My parents were barely twenty when they had me. My mother would wear tube tops with no bra, the cotton barely hiding the shape of her nipples. A sight I would grow to become uncomfortable with by the time I was ten. Her shiny blue eye shadow matched the glint of the metal of her power wheelchair and, if she was moving at her top speed of eight miles an hour, you were hard pressed to know which parts were metal and which were her disco makeup.

To continue reading Clogs and Gold Lame Tube Top click here.

A Feather for a Fan (excerpt) by Karla Stover

Chapter 1

FFAFFog rolled down from Canada and pressed against the smoke from a Northern Pacific engine, obliterating the view of old growth timber on one side of the tracks and Commencement Bay on the other. Inside the stuffy passenger car, Verdie Bacom sighed and waited for her two oldest children, Mathilda, eleven and Reuben, ten, to start whining. It was the view that had kept them entertained for the past several hours. Instead, they pressed their noses against the glass trying to penetrate the murky haze. Next to her, Verdie’s husband, Ira, gave a deep hacking cough and immediately covered his mouth with his handkerchief. At Verdie’s sideways glance, he said, “Don’t worry so much, V, it’s just a cough.”

Farther back in the passenger car where a group of miners and loggers sat, one said, “It’s sure and certain he won’t make old bones.”

To continue reading A Feather for a Fan, click here.

Love On the Beach – An Excerpt from The Backside of Nowhere by Alec Clayton

Author photoSue Ellen was his first love. He can recall every moment they spent together, especially the first times they made love. The first time was after a football game when they were juniors in high school. In the front seat of his daddy’s car. He’s pretty sure it ranked as the most disastrous firsts ever.

He pulled his daddy’s Pontiac onto the beach and yanked up the parking break. He cranked the driver side window down an inch or two to let in some of the cool fall air, and they faced each other and said, “Okay, here we are. Let’s do it.”

He scooted out from under the steering wheel and over to the middle of the front seat. It was a big car. There was plenty of room. They put their arms around each other, and they kissed, and he reached his hand under her blouse. “Are you sure you want to do this?” she asked.

To continue reading Love On the Beach, click here.

The Case of the Tree Spirit by Teresa Carol

Teresa Carol in Gig Harbor (1)I sat entranced across the table from the golden-haired lady who was explaining to me in detail the unusual occurrences she had witnessed at her home. I was surprised at how extremely beautiful she was. It was not the normal beauty that many women have, rather it seemed almost supernatural. Her hair was like spun silk which shimmered in the bright light of the coffee shop. Her skin seemed to glow with soft dew-like moisture. She was small in frame and light in body. I guessed that she was around fifty years of age.

“Your skin is so lovely,” I interrupted, “Do you mind if I ask what you use.”

“Oh!” she fluttered her hands. “It’s really quite simple,” her soft, pink, perfectly formed lips separated into an amazing smile. “I make it myself using rosewater and honey.”

She looked a little embarrassed. “Since I moved to Steilacoom I became interested in all kinds of salves and teas. It began when I kept discovering new herbs in my garden and at the same time I would come across a recipe using those herbs. I began experimenting. I still find a new plant from time to time and almost daily I come across a recipe for everything from healing burns to removing warts. It’s wonderful how well these natural ingredients work!”

I stared at her. “You mean you have a magical garden that provides you not only ingredients but also recipes?”

She tittered, very self conscious, “Yes, I call it my Findhorn after the place in Scotland where the angels and divas help the Findhorn Community grow the extraordinary large vegetables in barren soil. I nodded being familiar with the project founded by Eileen and Peter Caddy at a garbage dump in Findhorn, Scotland.

To continue reading The Case of the Tree Spirit click here

Bill at the Bible Study By Dave Engel

cclogoBill walks up to the door and presses the doorbell. The doorbell says, “Ding dong,” and ushers in our hostess. Oh Karen, her little Bible Study. The diligently prepared desserts and Columbian coffees. Oh how she loves to play grown-up and entertain a host of… ding dong, time to fetch the door! So in comes Bill to be greeted by a group of grasping hands, all teeth and gums with welcomes to share. Bill’s eyes slide down to the super-fashionable, ultra-religious, “Jesus” bracelets that loudly ask a question meant to probe one’s heart. And yet this marketable statement of faith somehow doesn’t probe Bill, he’s just left wondering if the abstract couldn’t do the same.

So after the pastries and chocolates and coffees and introductions comes the Bible. Oh yes, the Bible. It doesn’t speak very loud but it has so much to say. But since everyone is so busy unzipping their ultra-fashionable, super-religious Bible covers they don’t even notice that poor Bill doesn’t have a Bible. That is, until he says something. Now what a pickle Karen is in, all that planning for nothing. But she spies hope! A guest Bible just for this occasion, when a heathen or gentile or Jehovah’s Witness or whoever comes over unequipped. How thoughtful she is. Well as soon as Bill gets his Bible and opens it up, the Bible starts saying all sorts of stuff. On page 221 it says, “I took my concubine, cut her up into pieces and sent one to…” Flip a few more pages and more of the same. Page 283: “The Lord will repay him for the blood he shed…May the guilt of their blood rest upon the head…” Page 580 is all in a fever with, “Instead of a fragrance there will be a stench, instead of a sash, a rope…”

To continue reading Bill at the Bible Study click here.

Excerpt of Nightlife Interrupted by Robert Hazelton

Nightlife Interrupted CoverThe game was a bust. Those punk ass brats were on it and my dice went on strike. I’ve never heard a ten-sided die tell me to fuck off in such a meaningful way. I had better luck with Ophelia and considering how our conversation went, I was doomed the second I sat down at the table. My poor minis and I should’ve bowed out after the first blow to my ego.

I wasn’t that smart.

At ten o’clock, I was brooding behind the counter over my failures when I really started to think about Ophelia. She was right about Meredith, I had no idea why I was made. The thing I didn’t know was what it mattered. What made it suspicious? More importantly, why was she so against vampires? I had no answers, only questions but fortunately, I knew someone who might be able to help me out.

Unfortunately, he hung out at Club Eternal. I was hoping Jade would already be gone by the time I got there but it was a big enough place that we probably wouldn’t run into each other. As long as my employees could be trusted to watch the shop, then everything would be fine. I rarely left and none of them were used to soloing it.

To continue reading from Excerpt of Nightlife Interrupted, click here.

Into the Storm – An excerpt from The Backside of Nowhere By Alec Clayton edited for Creative Colloquy

Author photoSheriff Randy Moss is an uninvited guest at Pop Lawrence’s hurricane party. He says, “Oh, hi. Um, Shelly asked me to come in.”

Not everyone returns his greeting. David and Mary refuse to speak to him. Melissa turns her back and walks into the kitchen, brushing right past him, pours herself a big shot of straight whiskey and swigs it down, and then pours herself another and carries it down the hallway. She goes into a bedroom and kicks the door shut behind her.

A huge crack of thunder shakes the house. Outside the sky is almost as dark as night, but floodlights aimed at the front walk and out across the bay from the deserted deck highlight sheets of sideways rain that look like shimmering mercury. Another loud thunder boom rattles the house, and the lights go out. For a moment it is pitch black inside, until their eyes gradually adjust. Pop says, “David, go crank up the generator.”

David heads out to the garage, where he starts up the generator. The lights come back on. Shelly wanders back to the bedroom, taps on the door and opens it. Melissa is sitting on the edge of the bed holding her drink in her hands. Her eyes are red. Shelly says, “Sweetie, how come you’re in here drinking all alone? You’re not going to let that Randy Moss ruin your day now, are you? You can’t let your resentment ruin you.”

“What do you mean?”

To continue reading Into the Storm click here

Coming Down The Mountain, Excerpt from the forthcoming book, THE HERMIT by Gabriel Roberts

The HermitMy poor bike was covered in ice for days on end and it took some time for it to warm up.  I had moved it before the first snow into a shelter that was being used to dry out the weed.  Before I could even get to the road, I would have to travel three quarters of a mile through foot deep untouched snow up a hill.  Trying to do this with my motorcycle alone, packed with a fully loaded bike and 50 lb backpack was simply impossible.  My boss pulled their quad up to my bike and wrapped a car towing strap around the front forks of my bike.  In what I can only characterize as the most brilliant and dangerous backwoods towing job I’ve ever come across, we inched up the hill, essentially being dragged and sledded by my boss riding in reverse.  Miraculously, I had made it to the top and said goodbye to my kind employer.

To continue reading Coming Down The Moutain click here.